5 Expert Tips to Make Running Records More Doable

Yes, Running Records take a good amount of time, and yes, they also take a good amount of expertise. But they’re worth every minute and every ounce of know-how because of the incredible results they deliver. An investment in Running Records is an investment in your students and in your instructional effectiveness.

That being said, there are certainly ways to make Running Records a bit easier, especially when you’re first starting out. Take a look at my 5 expert tips for doable Running Records!


It may seem like an insignificant thing to draw a check mark above every word the student reads correctly. But there’s an important reason for those marks. Do you know what they’re for? They can help you take a Running Record anytime, anywhere. How? Well, those tick marks act as stand-ins for the words in the text. And that’s important because most of the time our Running Records don’t include the text printed on them. They were originally designed by Marie Clay to be taken on any sheet of paper, including blank ones. This gives us greater flexibility and allows us to take Running Records whenever we need to, but it also means we’ve got to keep track of the words in the text ourselves.

Tick marks help us keep track of where we are in the text both during and after the Running Record. During the Running Record we’re keeping up with the reader so we’re poised and ready to code miscues that occur. Afterwards those tick marks help us see those same miscues in the context of a sentence and their placement on the page. These marks combined with the actual text help us more accurately analyze the reader’s behavior. This analysis informs our instructional moves and helps us be the responsive teachers our readers need us to be.


Learning to code Running Records can feel overwhelming at times and can make us question our accuracy. But we can check our accuracy in an objective way by audio recording student readers. Sometimes (who am I kidding, often!) it can be tough to catch everything a reader says and does during a Running Record. By audio recording the event we can replay the recording over and over if needed. Replaying the tough-to-code portions of the Running Record can help us improve our coding skills too. When we learn how to code a tricky part we can use that knowledge the next time we encounter a similar reading behavior, and our accuracy and confidence grow with each Running Record we take.

Another benefit to audio recording a Running Record is that you can double check a reader’s fluency. You can listen more than once for pausing, phrasing, expression, and rate, checking each one against a fluency rubric. You can also easily determine the words-per-minute that the student read because your audio recording is time stamped, making the calculation straightforward.


Making the most of your time is always top priority. That’s why we need to be organized before we administer Running Records. One of the best ways to maximize your time is to know exactly which students you’ll read with that day. But is making a list of those students enough of a time saver? It is when you group them in a strategic way.

For example, you might create a group of students who likely need a Running Record with texts at the same level. If several students are at similar levels then you can gather up the materials you’ll need for that group of students and knock out a bunch of Running Records without stopping to collect books or swap out materials.

Or you can group students by their personalities as readers. Say you have a few students who perform markedly better when they read in a quiet space. Why not make some room in your schedule to read with those students before or after school? Or during a prep period when your classroom is empty? Then you can finish Running Records with other students who don’t mind the background noise during literacy centers when guided reading would normally be taking place.


Whether you’re using materials from an assessment kit or you’re using leveled texts and blank forms, you’ll need to be prepared with an introduction to the text and with questions to ask after reading. Be sure to write out a one sentence introduction that sets students up for success without giving away the farm! Or read the introduction provided ahead of time so that you don’t skew the Running Record results.

Likewise, take control of the comprehension conversation by being prepared. Write questions in advance that check for the reader’s understanding of the content, the deeper meaning, and how the text works. Or read the provided questions carefully and consider how they might need to be rephrased if the student finds them difficult. When you’re ready for the Running Record you’ll be able to focus on listening intently and watching for reading behaviors that will inform your instruction.


There’s nothing worse than getting results from a Running Record that you’re unsure about. You want to feel confident that you understand more about your reader than when you started. But interruptions and confusions can get in the way of our confidence in the data. We can mitigate these factors by teaching our students what Running Records look like and sound like for both teachers, student readers, and for the rest of the kids in the room.

Plan a minilesson for your entire class in which you detail the purpose of Running Records, what the teacher does, what the student does, and what the rest of the class should be doing while you administer them. Teach the lesson and show students what you expect them to do and not do while you’re reading with students. For example, teach them to ask peers for help when they see you working with a student, instead of interrupting you unnecessarily. Teach them signals for asking permission to use the restroom or get a drink, again minimizing disruptions. And reinforce that you want all your students to always try their best when reading with you because when they show you what they know and can do, then you can do a better job teaching them what they need next.


Want more tips like these? Ready to take your Running Records to the next level? Enroll in my Running Record Boot Camp! It’s a self-paced online course that will help you learn to score accurately, analyze deeply, and get the most out of your assessments. Participants are also invited to join an exclusive Facebook group where they can get their specific questions answered and learn even more in a private, supported community. Enroll today!

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